Read our posts about self

Why Do We Like Being Scared?

Why Do We Like Being Scared?

Horror. Danger. Suspense. What’s the attraction? There’s certainly no doubt that the attraction exists. Crime novels and dark tales of the occult regularly make their way into the best-seller lists, and horror films are ever popular. What’s so good about feeling scared, and how universal is the desire to do so? To answer these questions, we need to start with some definitions. It may surprise (but not frighten!) you to learn that humour, surprise and fear are closely related. The element that binds them is expectation. When something happens that is...
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What Do Your Dreams Mean?

What Do Your Dreams Mean?

Dreams, says Philippa Perry, are an important way of understanding ourselves. They are a metaphor for our psyches and a way of unpeeling our unconscious to reveal what we are truly thinking. Philippa’s dream workshop was the first co-production between welldoing.org and the how to: Academy; it was held at the beautiful Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design in Soho, London on October 28. I joined a capacity crowd to hear Philippa, a (non-practising) psychotherapist, teach us how to gather meaning from our nighttime adventures. She doesn't agree with Freud...
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Finding your University Identity

Finding your University Identity

In Beck Varley-Winter’s excellent piece Surviving University, I was struck by what she says about  Freshers Week: “Freshers Week suits extroverts. If you are not one, you will find socialising in massive groups can be stressful”. Many of the students I address each October would find resonance in Becky’s words.  Indeed, some would find the term “stressful” far too moderate a word to describe their experiences of a new environment, glamoured by history, by hope and by parental pride. As young people leave their families, they face a transition period in which...
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How To Deal With Anger

How To Deal With Anger

Anger isn’t a mental illness...but as anyone experiencing difficulties with the ‘the red mist’ will tell you, it can feel like it is.   ‘Dave’ is a man in his mid-thirties who began by informing me that his anger issues go back to his mid-childhood. As he matured and advanced in his career however, their impact upon his life seemed to reduce. Something was now changing for Dave, however, and he wanted help to understand why. The techniques Dave had developed for managing his anger were becoming much less effective. His relationship with his wife was making...
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Why Do People Take Extreme Risks?

Why Do People Take Extreme Risks?

Imagine climbing up a sheer wall of rock without a rope. Missing a foothold, losing your grip, or encountering a falling rock could send you flying toward almost-certain death. Welcome to the precarious world of free solo climbing. Alex Honnold is widely regarded as the world’s leading free solo climber. He has made some remarkable un-roped climbs, including the breath-taking 2000-foot walls of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The concentration required is extraordinary. Half Dome took three hours to climb the first time he scaled it, and Honnold was one slip...
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The Power of Big Picture Thinking

The Power of Big Picture Thinking

The pace of modern life seems to continually hold us back from thinking about the bigger picture. Instead, we are locked into a world where we focus on simple facts and information. We do not dwell on context or seek a wider analysis in our conversations. It's also a world where we rarely pause to reflect upon more personal conceptual questions, such as who we are, where we are going, and what life is all about for us. These are the kind of questions that require us to ‘change gear’ in our thinking; to lift ourselves up from asking questions that require...
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Stoicism: A Simplified Modern Guide

Stoicism: A Simplified Modern Guide

In this article, I present a simplified set of Stoic psychological practices, that could both act as a ‘daily philosophical routine’ and as a very concise introduction to Stoicism as a way of life. A key Stoic idea which informs these practices is that: ‘...to become educated (in Stoic philosophy) means just this: to learn what things are our own, and what are not’ (Discourses, 4.5.7). The practical consequence of this distinction is essentially quite simple: ‘What, then, is to be done? To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it naturally...
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Vincent Deary: Why Change is So Difficult

Vincent Deary: Why Change is So Difficult

I’m standing in a room facing about thirty people. They have come to hear me talk about habit and change. It’s part of the work of publicising my book. This is all new to me. The laws of habit, my old accustomed ways, are in temporary suspension. There is a new narrative taking shape. A story in which I am an author and some kind of authority. I’m claiming to know How To Live. People have paid to come and hear me talk about that. For the first time in a long time there has been rehearsal. I am having to think. There are feelings. I can feel, as I stand in the room,...
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Does Facebook distort our body image?

Does Facebook distort our body image?

Facebook offers a fun way to connect with others, share photos, news and events.  However, arguably everybody uses Facebook in other subtle, self-esteem boosting ways: to project a more ideal sense of themselves, to receive supportive comments and to gain ‘likes’ from others.  Sounds warm and wonderful. But there is a flip side.  Other people are also presenting their best selves and constant social comparison can lead to self-persecutory thoughts as well as self-improving and assuring ones. Our negative thoughts provoked by a visit to Facebook can often revolve...
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The Psychology of Overeating

The Psychology of Overeating

By the time I saw Maggie she’d been on just about every weight loss plan and diet going for 40 years.  She was in - if not so much a state of utter despair - certainly a state of utter resignation about her weight. Maggie came to me because she wanted to lose weight for her daughter’s wedding in 18 months time.  She knew rejoining her local slimming club would not be enough and was already well aware of all the types of food she should and should not be eating.  What I was first struck by was her capacity for self-blame. The slimming club plan hadn’t worked...
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